Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Innisfree Fizz

Here’s an Irish drink that is remarkably refreshing and served differently from other whiskey drinks.
  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. curacao
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar syrup
  • Club soda
Mix all ingredients except club soda in a shaker or blender. Pour into a wine goblet and fill with club soda.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Barbary Coast

This is a dessert drink from San Francisco’s dockside slums, once known as the Barbary Coast.
  • 2 parts light rum (1 oz.)
  • 1 part gin (1/2 oz.)
  • 1 part scotch (1/2 oz.)
  • 1 part white creme de cacao (1/2 oz.)
  • 1 part half-and-half (1/2 oz.)
Shake all ingredients on ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cork Comfort

I’ve used The Knot in a classic Irish cocktail that would make Mickey (the character who curses anyone who mixes a drink with The Knot) proud. I’ve replaced “a few dashes of Southern Comfort” with The Knot for something strong and tasty. Here’s the recipe.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • a few dashes of Southern Comfort (The Knot)
  • a few dashes of bitters
Build the drink in an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Add whiskey, vermouth and stir. Float dashes of liqueur and bitters on top.

Notice how the dram of The Knot appears behind the cocktail? I recommend drinking both at the same time.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Knot: Refreshing Cocktail

  • 1 oz. The Knot

1. Fill a shot glass with The Knot.
2. Drink it, y’ blitherin’ idiot.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hot Butter Rum

There’s a chill in the air and the sun sets earlier; leaves are changing and and crops are ready harvest. This is when our pallets yearn for the flavors of fall, and I like a hot drink after a brisk evening walk. Enter hot drinks.
  • 2 oz rum
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • pat of butter
  • dash nutmeg

Boil 6 oz. of hot water.
Add 2 oz. of rum and a tsp. of brown sugar to a coffee cup.
Pour hot water into the mug and stir.
Float a pat of butter on top and dust it with nutmeg.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Salty Dog

The Salty Dog is a modification of the Greyhound, a popular pre-war cocktail that was served at Greyhound station cafes. Canned grapefruit juice had hit the American beverage market, allowing for tart fruity drinks that had only been possible with preserves and liqueurs. Fresh juice can be very inconsistent, but I recommend it for most drinks because it is often richer than the canned variety.
  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka
  • 3 oz. grapefruit juice
Shake vodka and grapefruit juice on ice and strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with sea salt.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


I originally made this cocktail with a combination of whiskies I had available according to the standard NY Bartender's Guide recipe. There are many more including sweet, dry, and "perfect" variations. Use Canadian whiskey or bourbon to change it up. Then there are also blended and Irish whiskey versions too. Outside of whiskey, there's tequila, brandy, and even dark rum versions. But this is the original as was first made at the Manhattan Club in New York.

  • 3 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • dash Angostura bitters
  • maraschino cherry
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mint Julep

This is the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, the spring horse race that's first in the Triple Crown. It is an especially strong drink, which explains why so many people get drunk wearing big hats in the midfield--or at least it explains a part of this tradition.

Another tradition is to use a Julep cup, a metal cup that gets really frosty when you use crushed ice. None of that is in the recipe that I have but seems to have evolved along with the large hats that go with the race.
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • Simple syrup
  • 2 oz. bourbon
Muddle mint leaves in 1 tsp. of simple syrup in a highball glass. Add shaved or crushed ice and bourbon and stir. garnish with several unmuddled mint leaves.
This photo shows off my small batch 1783 Evan Williams and the 2014 Kentucky Derby julep glass that Meghan got from the Evan Williams distillery.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


The saying goes, “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.” It is a matter of categorization. Whiskey is a distilled grain spirit that has to be aged in oak however long you choose to age it and in whatever type of barrels you use. Bourbon is special—it must contain at least 51 percent corn in the mash and be distilled to no less than 80 proof (%40 alcohol). Then it must be aged in charred oak barrels for at least 2 years if it is
straight bourbon or 4 years if it is blended to ensure quality. While there are clear whiskeys, (due to being unaged or aged for a very short time) all bourbon whiskey has a dark amber hue due to the charred oak barrels.

Compared to most whiskey, bourbon is softer (due to the water from the region of its distillation—usually Kentucky) and characterized by a mellow vanilla flavor from the vanillin compounds it picks up from the charred oak. Oak is a major feature in bourbon’s flavor profile as well, and the use of corn as a major component means that bourbon is less spicy than rye and subtler than the all-too-noticable malted barley used in its Irish and scotch cousins.

Photograph and Terminology
This is a photo of my Evan Williams Single Barrel. A single barrel means that the whiskey contained in the bottle comes from one barrel selected by the distiller to be sold as an exceptional example of the distillery’s production. It is by definition “straight,” which means it comes from one distillery and is not a blend of several distilleries’ products. Most straight bourbons are a blend of barrels from the same distillery, which makes them more consistent from batch to batch. Sour mash, which also provides consistency, means that part of the fermented (sour) mash is saved from each batch to be  introduced into the next. The sour mash does not imply a sour flavor, it means that the yeast strain used to make alcohol from the mash is maintained rather than starting with a fresh batch with new yeast strains, much like sour dough bread.

Good bourbon is often best experienced neat or on ice. Some like Maker’ Mark have a distinctive sweet taste due to the portion of wheat used in the mash. Evan Williams is known for its balanced flavor with a little rye and wheat in the mash while its primary grain is necessarily corn. Unlike scotch, almost all bourbon shares a similar flavor profile, color, and mouthfeel. This predictability lends itself to mixing, when any bourbon, fine or cheap, will do.

Mix it with pineapple juice for a Kentucky Cocktail, muddle it with orange and simple syrup in an Old Fashioned, mix it with muddled mint for a Mint Julep, shake it with sweet vermouth for your Manhattan. One thing you will notice is that bourbon cocktails keep the flavor of the whiskey at the forefront and don’t try to mask it with too much additional flavor. Mixing with bourbon means working with the spirit, not against it, and using additional liqueurs and syrups that have a similar taste. Bourbon does not like to be hurried or ignored, and a good drink will hold your attention.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Whiskey Sour

  • 1 1/2 oz. whiskey (blended Canadian)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
Mix all ingredients in a highball glass full of ice and stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dog Sled

Ok. If you like something fruity to enjoy at the beach, and you like the way whiskey blends with juices, I have the cocktail for you.

  • 2 oz. Canadian whiskey
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grenadine

Pour all ingredients in a highball glass with ice and stir.
Hey, I am not kidding when I say this is a real drink. I didn’t invent it, though the name seems incongruous with the tropical nature of the drink. Whiskey, especially Canadian whiskey can lend a spicy zip to tropical drinks. Don’t rule it out when you are running low on rum.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blood And Sand

This is the classic cocktail with the singed orange twist. I did this over the range. I also used Cherry Heering like they do at The Velvet Tango Room.

  • 1 part (1 oz.) scotch
  • 1 part (1 oz.) cherry brandy
  • 1 part (1oz.) sweet vermouth
  • 1 part (1 oz.) orange juice

Shake all ingredients on ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kona Cooler

  • 1 part (1 oz.) blended or Canadian whiskey
  • 1 part (1 oz.) creme de cacao
  • 2 parts (2 oz.) pineapple juice
Pour all ingredients with ice into a Collins glass and stir. Garnish with fruit (i.e. cherry and orange or pineapple slices).

Sunday, September 7, 2014


The infamous Cablegram
  • 2 oz. blended (Canadian) whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1tsp. Sugar
  • Ginger ale
Muddle sugar in lemon juice and add ice and whiskey. Stir and top off with ginger ale. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

This drink has a reputation as a dangerous mind eraser. At each party where it was consumed (among other things) the drinker reported a loss of memory. This is accomplished with a good helping of Black Velvet Canadian whiskey, which is the active ingredient in all the mind erasing examples I’ve served. Enjoy, but remember to leave yourself post-it notes for tomorrow.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Toasted Caramel Manhattan

Something You Can’t Make Without Flavored Whiskey

  • 4 parts (2 oz.) Canadian, bourbon, or blended whiskey
  • 2 parts (1 oz.) Black Velvet Toasted Caramel whiskey

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry if desired.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Canadian Whiskey

Last week I had a guest at the bar who wanted help narrowing down his whiskey preferences. He knew he liked whiskey and that it was good in mixed drinks, but he wasn’t sure which kind of whiskey he liked most. I made a variety of drinks for him, mostly very tropical and sweet to fit his palate, and discovered exactly what he thought. He liked Canadian whiskey.

Canadian whiskey is probably the easiest whiskey to mix with because it is always blended and very smooth. There’s no malting or smoking and the multiple distillations and aging in new oak pretty much mean that the only thing you taste is the alcohol and the barrel. In this way, Canadian whiskey is like the vodka of whiskeys.

That’s not to say that Canadian whiskey is inferior to scotch or bourbon, Irish or Japanese, it is just different. There are some outstanding blends like the one above that stand out very well on their own. They have their own distinctive flavor, more spicy than bourbon, milder than a rye, drier than most scotches—Canadian whiskey tends to have a strong alcohol burn with a light palate and soft oak notes. Some of the better blends like Crown Royal Reserve have milk chocolate flavors and a long-lasting finish.

Other Canadian whiskeys are the perfect price for experimenting by mixing with maple syrup in a Manhattan or a Canadian Dog Sled cocktail. The Blinker I made yesterday is made with Black Velvet, a 3 year old whiskey, that allowed the grapefruit flavors of the drink to stand in the forefront while keeping oak in reserve. Try mixing Canadian whiskey with pineapple juice and creme de cacao for a Kona Cooler or with light rum in a Lord Rodney. You’d be surprised how close to the tropics Canada can get with its whiskey.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Old Fashioned

  • 4 parts blended whiskey, bourbon, rye, Canadian whiskey (2 oz.)
  • simple syrup
  • dash of bitters
  • 1-2 orange wheels and maraschino cherry.
Muddle orange wheels and one or two cherries with a tsp. of simple syrup. Add a dash of bitters to the mixture and pour whiskey on top. Add ice and stir.

This is a classic cocktail with many variations, as you can see from how non-specific whiskey ingredients. Some recipes call for a sugar cube muddled in water and bitters; some say to add a lemon twist with no mention of orange or cherry. So it is really a cocktail for which the recipe comes down to personal preference. On my bar I keep 4 categories of whisky/ whiskey—scotch, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, and straight bourbon whiskey. Occasionally I will have a blended American whiskey, rye,  Tennessee whiskey, or single malt American whiskey. Any of these would be acceptable for making an Old Fashioned.

Canadian whiskey is a good compromise in this drink. It has the dryness of rye without the heavier oak and vanilla flavors of bourbon. It is also less spicy compared to a rye because all Canadian whiskey (which contains a percentage of rye) is blended for smoothness. Experiment with your favorite whiskey when you make an Old Fashioned, but also—and here’s a tip—try making the drink with whiskey you don’t enjoy as much by itself. If someone gives you a bottle of rye or blended whiskey that you aren’t a fan of, chances are that it will improve in your esteem when you mix with it. Sometimes it is the unusual and often off-putting flavors of a liquor that a mixed drink can balance and showcase.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


This is a rye cocktail that tames the most funky whiskeys. It's a simple and tropical presentation that is perfect poolside.
  • 2 oz. rye
  • 2 1/2 oz. grapefruit
  • 1 tsp. grenadine

Shake all ingredients with ice in a shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grapefruit Cocktail

I thought the addition of Luxardo or cherry brandy makes this drink far more interesting than a Greyhound. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is much better for cocktails because it is less tart than the canned variety.
  • 4 parts (2 oz.) gin
  • 4 parts (2 oz.) grapefruit juice
  • 2 tsp. maraschino liqueur
  • Maraschino cherry.
Combine liquid ingredients with ice In a shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Velvet Tango Room

Can’t say enough about the drinks at The Velvet Tango room. Every one made with with the finest and vintage ingredients.

Here I am enjoying The Last Word with the special ingredient, Green Chartreuse. It's amazing. Like nothing I've ever tasted. I can see why the color was named after the liqueur.
More cocktails from The Velvet Tango Room include classic Whiskey Sour, Aviation, and Blood and Sand.